A Few Sunday Quotes From ‘Problems From Kant’ By James Van Cleve

I was asked if it would be foolish to demand of Einstein that his laws conformed directly to his experience, or to claim that his thought experiments had their roots in our theory of direct experience of objects?  Or why even try to place him within the towering metaphysics of someone like Kant?

Why not just let a 20 year old student of mathematical physics rigorously learn the equations necessary to allow him a useful arrival at pondering a great problem, and to maybe crunch the numbers at CERN and work through a functioning theory, rather than routing him through either Hume, Kant, or any other profound philosophers of the natural world?

I’m not sure I know.

Here’ a question I can better answer with some quotes from James Van Cleve’s book Problems From Kant Pg 31.  What led him out on his limb of synthetic a priori reasoning, and does it hold if you follow it?:


First a reconstruction of Hume’s argument, and how it may have looked to Kant:

1. If a proposition is a priori, its denial implies a contradiction.

2. If a proposition implies a contradiction, it is inconceivable.

3. The denial of the causal maxim is conceivable.

4. Therefore, the denial of the causal maxim does not imply a contradiction (from 2 and 3).

5. Therefore, the causal maxim is not a priori (from 1 and 4).

We may add to this that the causal maxim is not knowable empirically, either.  As a universal proposition (every event has a cause), it outruns what experience could ever establish…

…So, if Hume is right, the causal maxim is not knowable at all–a result that Kant thought would be disastrous for science and knowledge.  Such is the problem Hume posed for Kant…

…In Kantian terminology, the short way to say that the denial of a proposition p implies a contradiction is ‘p is analytic’.  From Kant’s point of view, therefore, the argument amounts to this:  the causal maxim is not a priori because it is not analytic (step 4), and only the analytic is a priori (step 1).  A similar argument, Kant perceived, would show that not even mathematics is a priori-an assertion from which Hume’s “good sense would have saved him” (B20).  This is why the category of synthetic a priori judgments was so important for Kant:  if they are possible, the Humean argument above can be evaded.

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Hilary Putnam On The Philosophy Of Science:  Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On YouTube

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